In early 1974 Joseph Beuys, Klaus Staeck and Gerhard Steidl sat in a Boeing 747 from New York to Düsseldorf, returning home after Beuys’ American tour. The trip had been a controversial success, and its every stage carefully documented by Staeck and Steidl in videos, photographs and audio-their trusty Sony TC-50 cassette recorder was always at Beuys’ side during his lectures, conferences and workshops. To relieve the boredom of the flight, the three listened to some of the recordings and Beuys surprisedly noticed just how much he laughed: why not edit this laughter into a single, surreal track?
Steidl subsequently gave the original tapes to the young sound engineer Siegfried Schäfer, who set to work reducing bass and background noise, and created a final edit of 20 minutes. Steidl played this master to a delighted Beuys, who decided to issue it as an audio tape edition, in the mold of his 1969 recording Ja, Ja, Ja, Ja, Ja, Nee, Nee, Nee, Nee, Nee (Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, No, No, No, No, No). Yet the master tape of Beuys Laughing was then sadly lost for a period of 46 years, only to resurface in 2020. Now, re-mastered and digitized by Schäfer and Pauler Acoustics, it is finally available to the public, in a limited-edition vinyl EP.
I like America and America likes me. – Joseph Beuys
Co-published with Edition Staeck, Heidelberg